Bonneville Power will look at alternatives to transmission lines

PORTLAND, Ore., Feb. 13, 2002 — The Bonneville Power Administration wants to involve citizens, interest groups and utilities earlier when planning new transmission lines.

The agency will also test possible alternatives to building transmission lines, BPA officials say. To do this, the agency is improving the way it plans for reinforcements to the transmission system. The suggested changes are included in recommendations from a report titled “Expansion of BPA Transmission Planning Capabilities.”

It was prepared by energy industry consultants Energy and Environmental Economics Inc. of San Francisco as well as by Portland consultant Tom Foley and Eric Hirst from Tennessee.

Department of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said, “The Bonneville Power Administration is setting a great example for other energy transmission providers by seeking early input from customers and other regional stakeholders as they work to meet the increased demand for electricity in the Pacific Northwest. I also appreciate BPA’s effort to identify reliable alternatives, such as conservation and distributed generation, to alleviate the need to build new transmission lines.”

The consultants expect that broadly shared information will lead to a more cost-effective and efficient regional system. The report suggests that, once stakeholders have information, they can identify potentially lower-cost and reliable alternatives to transmission expansion. Alternatives to building transmission lines can include conservation, distributed generation, pricing incentives, energy use curtailment and demand-side management. To be effective, measures must be targeted in areas experiencing transmission problems.

-more- “This is an important step for us. It challenges us to consult vigorously with everyone who is interested in our transmission system planning and to do it early enough to make a difference,” said Brian Silverstein, BPA’s transmission planning manager. “It also increases the focus on testing alternatives, asking if, in some cases, we can maintain the reliability of the system without building lines.”

Steve Weiss, senior policy associate for the Northwest Energy Coalition, praised the report and BPA’s actions. “This report establishes a national model for sound, long-term transmission planning and investments. We commend Bonneville Power Administration for commissioning this work.”

Silverstein said, “The report suggests that we start by creating a 10-year plan that will be updated every other year. The plan will offer the information needed for transmission users and other interested groups to see the costs and consequences of decisions in which they participate.”

“This report will be of great value,” said Ralph Cavanaugh, energy program director, Natural Resources Defense Council, “not just for BPA but for all the transmission owners, customers and regulators who collectively will determine the future of the western electricity grid.”

The report notes that BPA has experienced nearly a 2 percent annual growth in demand since the late 1980s. In that same time period, the agency has dealt with the increasing demands through a combination of upgrades of existing facilities and advanced controls. These options were pursued to keep the system operating reliably and efficiently but also to avoid the expensive and sometimes controversial work of stringing new wires.

In addition, BPA has acquired over 750 average megawatts through conservation since 1981. Until now, that has helped the agency delay the need for new transmission construction in the Seattle area.

This year BPA will conduct a detailed analysis of at least one of its proposed major transmission upgrade projects to learn if alternatives can defer or replace the transmission fix. The consultants report is available on the Web at: files/slide0001.htm.


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